Winston and Don ride against Maori preferential treatment in the RMA reforms

Don Brash and Winston Peters have joined forces, unofficially, opposing Maori preferential treatment in the RMA reforms.

Brash, best known for his controversial Orewa speech in 2004 arguing against special status for Maori, told the committee that the National Party had always accepted fundamental reforms to the RMA were needed.

“If I was asked what single measure the Government could take to raise living standards in New Zealand, I would without hesitation answer, ‘Reform the RMA’.”

However, the proposed legislation was “pitifully limited” and would do little to resolve the existing problems, Brash said.

“By widespread consent, these reforms barely scratch the surface of what is needed.”

In addition, the “extremely modest” changes had been “bought at the cost of greatly extending the rights of those with a Maori ancestor to have a preferential involvement in the decision-making process”.

The proposed legislation would vastly extend the preferential treatment already offered to Maori in the RMA process through the iwi agreements, Brash said.

“This is surely a recipe for further delay, for corruption, and for anger on behalf of the rest of the community…

“It is incomprehensible to me how a National Party-led government could propose a bill which violates the very principle of democratic governance.”

This is going to hamstring NZ if we have to ask Maori for permission for everything.

Brash said Peters, who has attacked the Government’s compromise with the Maori Party and made overtures to back separate RMA reforms, offered a “vastly better alternative”.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox asked what Brash thought of a recent Waitangi Tribunal finding that Maori did not cede sovereignty when signing the Treaty, to which he replied: “Very briefly, b******s.”

National MP Nuk Korako was sceptical about Brash’s claims of “enormous decision-making powers” for Maori, saying they were not backed up by the plans.

“What you’re saying are there are these great powers, great decision-making powers, but where are they in the bill?”

However, Brash said requiring local authorities to consult with iwi would add bureaucracy and delay to the process.

Not to mention add compliance fees, taniwha taxes and the like.

After the committee meeting, Peters re-stated his willingness to work with the National Party on RMA reforms.

“The National Party said it was going to be the most important issue during this term – it’s far bigger than that, it’s the most important issue in politics now.

“We want to see proper reform…that’s not going to happen now.”

Environment Minister Nick Smith dismissed Peters’ and Brash’s concerns about the reforms, saying the iwi partnership agreements would streamline and formalise the consultation process between Maori and the Crown.

“The real difficulty for councils when they’re receiving thousands and thousands of consents is trying to differentiate where iwi have a proper interest.

“The council will know at the beginning that iwi have a particular concern about this water body, and all those thousands of consents that are about building issues, of which they actually have very little interest, would not be involved.”

Claims that the reforms would increase the requirement to consult with iwi were “just rubbish”, Smith said.

Hands up anyone who believes what Nick Smith says…anyone? …anyone? …anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so.

John Key could swallow his pride with a slice of dead rat and work with Winston on meaningful and sensible RMA reforms.


– Fairfax

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